5 Places to Visit in Penang, Malaysia for Free!
A week ago, I wrote about what to see and do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This week I will tell you about 5 places you can visit in Penang, Malaysia for free. The reason I went to Penang initially? FOOD. Penang is a food haven according to food vloggers like Mark Wiens and Mike Chen.
I am a foodie and as every foodie on the planet I enjoy spending all (or most) of my money on good food. Luckily Penang understands this and offers a number of interesting places to visit for FREE. So, here is my list of free places you should visit in Penang in between food sessions (if you only care about food, read my Penang must eats and where to find them here.)
How did I get to George Town, Penang from Kuala Lumpur?
There are different ways you can get to Penang, if you are travelling from Kuala Lumpur. Ranging from cheapest to most expensive, your options are:
- Coach (regular)
- Coach (Premium)
- Taxi (Grab – but might be hard to find)
After researching my options, I decided to go with the Premium Coach, Aeroline. The cost of a one way trip to Penang was around RM 60. Aeroline picks you up in front of the Corus Hotel in KLCC and drops you off at the Queensbay shopping mall in Penang. Then, you are just a short Grab (south east Asia’s Uber) away from George Town. The entire trip lasts about 5 hours and there is a morning (8 a.m.) and afternoon
(4 p.m.) pick up time. You can find more answers to FAQs about Aeroline here.
Aeroline offered a really good service, but it is advisable to book online in advance to guarantee a hot meal (I ended up with instant noodles because I booked at the counter!). The coach will stop as a service station so you can use the bathroom, stretch and buy some snacks and drinks. The only criticism I had was the lack of wifi which I felt should have been part of the deal since I was paying a premium price.
What is the difference between a premium coach and a regular coach?
On my way back to Kuala Lumpur, I could not bring myself to wake up early for the morning Aeroline coach and did not want to reach Kuala Lumpur too late in the night either. Therefore, I decided to take a risk (or what I thought was a risk) and hop on a regular coach, Plusliner, which cost about RM35. Make sure you do your research and check the reviews before booking. If you are not booking online, make sure to have CASH on the day. Booking shops will NOT have card machines. In my case, on Plusliner, the experience was not much different from Aeroline, apart from not being offered food and having slightly less cozy chairs. I still enjoyed the experience though!
AND NOW THE GOOD STUFF
5 Free Things to do in George Town, Penang
Kek Lok Si Temple
This was, by far, the best part of my trip to Penang (minus the food, of course). Kek Lok Si is a masterpiece temple located in Air Itam. It is Malaysia’s biggest Buddhist temple. Kek Lok Si has over 10 000 alabaster and bronze Buddha statues and an impressive 36.5 metres tall statue of The Goddess of Mercy. Make sure to allocate a minimum of 2 hours so you can enjoy the entire grounds leisurely. There is so much to see here and you might even find yourself finding a quiet space to do some meditation. The gardens are full of flowers and water features; the wall of Buddha statues make you feel protected from the outside dangers.
Go on a scavenger hunt in Georgetown for the best street arts! Penang is known for its interactive street arts by famous artist Ernest Zacharevic . You can find a complete map of his street arts in the streets of Penang here.
This was such a fun activity for me and will definitely delight all you instagrammers out there! The streets are packed with tourists but everyone is in such an excited mood from finding the art that you will most likely join in the fun and run around screaming that you just ticked another one off the list!
Penang National Park
Penang National Park is a must-go when you are in Penang. You can either take the bus or grab there depending on how much money you feel like spending. The park is massive so you might even decide to come back a few times to truly explore it. Some people also camp at the beaches bordering the end of the park before continuing their hike. The park is kept in its natural state but also has a few man-made concrete and metallic stairs and bridges to help you make your way through it. Make sure to stock up on water and wear light airy clothes because you will be sweating buckets during this exploration!
There are a few different directions you can take in the National Park so make sure to plan ahead. When I visited, my only goal was to get to the monkey beach (I will be talking about that next!) so I followed the coastal part of the park until I reached my destination. But there is plenty more to see for those who are more adventurous! The National Park also leads to the famous Turtles Beach. If you visit Penang between February and April you might even spot the baby turtles hatching and making their way to the ocean!
When being asked where you will be hiking to in the park, you will most likely be told that the Monkey Beach is officially off limits as the area is prone to landslides. You will not be allowed to write Monkey Beach as your “destination” when signing into the park and be advised that you should get a boat instead. We decided to do what the locals do and hike it anyway! And it was such a long hike! It nearly felt like an Indiana Jones movie, climbing over fallen tree trunks and fitting in between boulders. At some places, I tried to be as quiet as possible as I could see huge boulders lying peacefully at the top of my head on what seemed to look like eroding soil….
ANYWAY, you do feel a sense of achievement when you “survive” (real hikers will say I am probably exaggerating ) and enter monkey beach drenched in sweat and covered in mosquito bites. And yes Monkey Beach does have monkeys!
Once you are there, you can enjoy drinks and snack from small beach cafes.
Prices are, obviously, tourist prices. When eating, be wary of the monkeys as they will try to steal your food! Do not feed the little ones unless you want one of the huge male monkeys to start charging at you. Better be safe than sorry! And if you do not have the courage to hike all the way back, you can get a boat back to the park’s entrance for RM50!
Last on my list, but not the least, go for a walk on chew jetty. Mike Chen, on his Youtube channel Strictly Dumpling, tried one of the biggest bowls of noodles there so if you are a noodle fan and feel very hungry you know what to do! Other than that, the jetty has a number of small local artisanal shops, snacks and drinks! At the end of the jetty you will find a small temple and enough space to sit down and enjoy the view on the ocean.
In Chew Jetty you can also spot some amusing street arts that you will feel compelled to take a picture of and with. Later in the day, the lanterns light up along the sides giving the jetty a truly romantic feel.
That was the list! I hope you found it useful and see these places for yourselves. Have a good one!